Nourishing Foundations: Why Traditional Food?

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Before I get into specifics topics about traditional food (to read a little more on upcoming topics, read my post, My Plans), I realized that I needed to share the philosophy behind it all. This post is not in the least exhaustive, but rather an introduction to why I eat and think like I do. Please feel free to ask clarifying questions, if needed, or share your own views.

Advice of Today

In the last few generations, we have seen many health experts turn us away from many of the traditional foods that our society has eaten, including butter, meat, raw milk and cheese, bones broths, tallow, and eggs- among other things. Instead we are encouraged to turn to a more vegan, low fat lifestyle, often complete with soy and rice milk, fake butters, tofu and soy burgers. Although these choices were supposed to reflect scientific evidence, we all know the shifting sands of scientific research!

And so, many of us have followed, turning away from traditional ingredients, recipes and food preparation, we have turned to new-fangled food that no one in history has consumed, in the belief that we have finally found true health food.

With that belief, there came a fear of real food. I remember distinctly the fear surrounding butter in my younger years. My mother, sister and I were completely horrified when my dad would put butter on his oatmeal. “You are going to give yourself a heart attack!” one of us would cry. I am just thankful that although we had a fear of consuming too much butter, my mother never used margarine.

And although this might not have been apparent at first (as it certainly never occurred to me in the past), I feel that there is a certain arrogance in rejecting our historical inheritance. It’s as if we look back on history and say, “We know better than you how to eat and live”.

With science currently tinkering with nature so much, such as with GMO’s, we turn our backs not only on our past, but we snub what we find here on earth and say, “We can improve what God and nature has produced”. Armed with our health experts, studies, and “advancements,”we turn from what kept our great, great grandparents healthy, and turn towards new developments convinced that we can improve on what history has given us.

Where I Stand

While I believe in making progress, I don’t believe that progress comes in the form of changing food’s natural state. Properly prepared whole grains, fresh vegetables, tree ripened fruit, grass fed meat, eggs from happy and healthy chickens, fish from clean water, and milk from pastured cowsΒ all goes back to it’s, healthy, natural form.

What about the Scientific Evidence?

But still, some of you might still be asking, “What about the studies? Didn’t they prove at least something?” The first thing I had to realize in my journey towards nourishing food,Β  was that there is always another side of the story.

If all you listen to is mainstream medical media, you are getting only one piece of a very large picture. Traditional food being good for you actually has a lot of growing scientific support, it just might not be mainstream (I gather some people don’t want the good news to spread).

So, then, Do We all need to Drink Milk?

When we look at what people ate in the past, we find that there is definitely diversity. Some of us, with our genetic background, may find that we do better avoiding certain foods altogether. But we can look back at a multitude of cultures and find wonderful blueprints for our diets. That’s not to say that all were equally healthy. For example, Weston A Price, found that cultures who ate a lot of seafood were the very healthiest (with more meat based cultures in second place, and vegetarian based cultures placing third. He didn’t find a single vegan culture to study).

In Closing

While I appreciate the great strides and progress we have made in recent years, I also think that we must not lose the good from past generations. Let’s remember that sometimes before we can go forward, we have to learn from the past.

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

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Comments

  1. Jessica O. says

    Kimi,
    Great post….You did a really nice job…I so agree with everything you said….great picture too….You do such a great job on your blog…
    Have a great day….
    Jessica O.

  2. says

    I am new to your site and was referred by someone whose son has your husband as a piano teacher. I can relate to so many of the issues you discuss and have also read Nourishing Traditions. We have adjusted our meals accordingly. I’m wondering what resources you use in this area to get good, economical products to eat this way. I have found some, but would love to hear what you have found also. Feel free to e-mail me when you get a chance. I am enjoying your website!

  3. says

    Hi! Happy New Year to you!

    I really like your post. I feel like in the past couple of years I have come full circle in my food choices. I grew up eating beef and Crisco and drank milk at every meal. Later in life I became vegan and rode that wagon for 5 years. At first I loved all of the fake meats. Then I started noticing that there are a million ingredients in them and that most are very processed. It was tough for me to understand all of my nutritional requirements so I decided to incorporate organic eggs and organic cheese.

    Eventually, I had to stop adhering to a label (vegetarian) all together and eat more intuitively. Eating intuitively is how I plan on living the rest of my life. I will eat fresh caught fish from the river. I’ll eat the local eggs from the happy chickens up the street, and I plan on owning goats someday soon and learning how to make cheese. When it comes to animal products (veggies, too I guess!), I won’t touch anything non-organic…and I’m leaning towards only eating locally raised cheese and eggs. I don’t eat meat other than fish because I figure that if I can be friends with an animal, I shouldn’t eat it. (This is my personal rule, but everyone is different) I quit eating sugar, and am still feeling out various natural sweeteners. I’ve never felt better.

    As a side note, my husband worked in television/news rooms for 10 years. He has helped me understand the role of advertising and media in people’s food decisions. One month coffee is good for us. The next month it causes heart problems. The news is no longer a good source of information, rather it is entertainment aimed at gaining the most viewers. No matter what “studies” come out, nothing beats my own common sense and intuition when it comes to what I eat.

  4. KimiHarris says

    Jessica,

    You are always so encouraging, πŸ™‚ Thanks.

    Anna,
    Welcome to my site. πŸ™‚ That’s a great question and I would love to share some of my favorite places. I will email you when I get the chance.

    My Year Without,
    Thanks for sharing your personal story. You shared a lot of interesting thoughts. I very much agree that we need to listen to our bodies. I find that my nutritional needs seem to vary. For example, when pregnant and nursing, not only do I eat much more, but I seem to need more beef than normal. Now that I am no longer nursing, I am starting to crave salads more often! While our body can deceive us by craving for something that is hurting our body (like sugar), I think that it is wise to try to discern how our body is responding to food.

    I totally agree, news is not only a terrible source for info on health and food, it’s a terrible source for any information! It’s all about creating drama to keep the money flow coming in.

  5. ruth anne shorter says

    Love this information. Right on. Fresh ingredients and close to natural is best for me. Thank you so much for your great topics, recipes and more. Love to your baby.

  6. Sarah Armstrong says

    I really recommend the book ‘In defense of Food’ by Michael Pollan. He covers a lot of these issues very well. Thanks for the post.

  7. says

    Kimi,

    Wow! I have been so busy lately and am just now catching up on your posts and I adore the new format and banner! It’s gorgeous. Your photos just pop now, too.

    Also, love this post. So wise and balanced and I love seeing that. Practical. That’s what I would say. And practical, to me, is essential if most people are to maintain their determination to eat to nourish and enjoy.

  8. says

    Very well said. As a Registered Nurse I witness how scientific studies fail to mention critical information. I recently subscribed to Vegetarian Times- I was hoping to get more dinner ideas. We are not vegetarians- my husband has anaphylatic reaction to mammal meat. He is so sensitive- he gets hives from the dog food. But I was seriously disappointed with the mag- It’s full of recipies with “fake meat”. Gross. Why would you want to be a veggie and still pretend to eat meat? I was really flabbergasted. A vegetarian is supposed to be healthy, right? BTW, you mentioned in your goals you want to include more seafood- what is your source for good fish (from clean water)?

  9. says

    I agree with you Kimi 100%. My husband father died 15 years ago at the young age of 77 of heart disease.

    Sad thing is, being born in 1916, he grew up on traditional foods such as homemade sausages stored in fat, raw milk, fresh produce grown in his mothers garden, homemade bake goods, butter, lard, free range eggs and chicken, home grown and home butchered beef and pork. He had beautiful teeth! However after WW2 margarine, pasteurized and homogenized dairy , white bread, Crisco, processed meats and box cereal became the norm. Although he was a very healthy and never sick growing up, his last days were hard with fighting his heart . I feel he would of lived longer if it were not for the fact that from about his 30’s on he ate store bought junk!

  10. KimiHarris says

    Ruth Anne,
    Thanks for the comment. πŸ™‚ I appreciate it!

    Hi Sarah,

    I’ve heard about his book, and I might have started reading it at one point. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll add it to my list to read.

    Heather,

    Thanks! I am really happy with how it turned out and like how I can make my pictures larger now. πŸ™‚ I think my new camera doesn’t hurt either. *wink* I agree with you that things must be practical, otherwise we will never be able to keep it all up!

    Vehement Flame,

    That’s a disappointment. I have always thought that it was so strange that we try to imitate real food. Definitely doesn’t seem right! But even though we eat meat fairly often, we do eat a lot of vegetarian food. It can be very tasty without trying to imitate what it’s not. πŸ™‚ I get my seafood mostly at a local health store (they carry high quality seafood that comes in everyday).

  11. KimiHarris says

    Anita,

    That is so sad! I am so sorry. πŸ™

    Don’t you wish that you could have learned how food was prepared in his day? I would love to have been able to sit in his mother’s kitchen and just watch!

  12. Elaine says

    I highly recommend Michael Pollan – The Omnivore’s Dilemma
    Very thought provoking about food and where it comes from. It’s inspired me to branch out from my mostly vegetarian (some fish) eating. I gave up eating meat 30 years ago (in my teens) because I’m so allergic to antibiotics that the residue in meat would give me a rash every time I ate it. So, I have to tread carefully, but am hoping to find a source of free range organic chicken to try. Now all I have to do is learn how to cook it. I also react badly to food additives, so I’m not much of a fake meat fan. Early on, my mother noticed a link between artificial colors and flavors and unruly behavior in her children, so we were spared the worst of the junk food epidemic.

  13. says

    Very well put, Kimi! My goal is to feed my family (and myself!) a variety of whole, real foods. Plant-based foods as unprocessed and close to nature as we can reasonably get them, and animal products from humane sources as much as possible.

    For me this all started when I met my husband, who had some pretty severe food allergies, and continued when our daughter was born and we realized that she had them, too. It got me reading labels and opened my eyes to what we were actually eating. I honestly don’t think most people in the US realize how much of their diet is made up of corn (and, increasingly, soy). We didn’t evolve to eat ONE food at the exclusion of all others!

  14. says

    A great article and I agree with you (I also love your blog!); I so very much wish that I could have learned some of the more traditional ways of food preparing from my mother, her grandparents lived to be over 90 years old and healthy until death with traditional foods. Although my father is a chef we still had some processed foods in my childhood.

    I am slowly trying to go back with foods, making stocks, making foods with liver and kidneys etc. It is a nice change and I do have more respect for food when eating like this.

    The theme looks great, I also use thesis and have been very happy with it πŸ™‚

  15. Peggy says

    I really appreciate your article! At this time we are trying to figure what is causing adult onset food allergies. When we got married 18 years ago my husband was able to eat all foods. After 3 years of marriage he developed an allergy to poultry, all fish, and walnuts with a sensitivity to most dried legumes (garbanzo beans excluded.) Now we are finding out that I have developed sensitivities to certain foods. We do know that the milk issue is one I’ve probably had all my life due to Mediterranean ancestory (1/4 Sicilian, lactose intolerance sorta). At this point in our lives we know there has to be a correlation between all the chemicals and the food which has triggered these “allergies”. The women in my family live long lives but do develop heart problems late in life. Unfortunately I grew up on Tang, margarine, Miracle Whip, Cool whip, and white flour. Mom did make virtually everything from scratch as it was far more economical and just plain tasted better. We did eat lots of veggies (canned) and had salad every night. I really appreciate your site even if I have been away for a while! I look forward to visiting more regularly again!!

  16. says

    I have wondered if the cultural obsession with processed food is a subtle result of wide-spread belief in evolution. When we’ve been raised to think that things are evolving to be better, naturally we would expect our food to be evolving to be better. It makes evolutionary sense that science can do better than nature.

    However, if you view food from a belief in a wise & good Creator, the opposite is true. Nothing man has created can compete with the creation of God. He knows our bodies inside and out, down to the smallest molecule… so if He designed the cow to give milk which turns into butter and not into margarine…. well, hmm?

  17. says

    Great Post Kimi.
    I wrote a couple post about this today. One is a Master Pantry list of foods we buy. We have start buying just ingreidents and making our own foods. No processed.
    Hugs,
    Elizbeth

  18. KimiHarris says

    Elaine,
    Thanks for the book recommendation. I’ve read books reviews about it before, so am somewhat familiar with it, but haven’t read it yet.

    Your mother sounds wise. πŸ™‚ Good luck on finding a good source for organic chicken!

    Badger,
    Good goals. There are mine as well. πŸ™‚ It’s amazing what allergies or a health issue can do for us! It can be a really eye opening experience! And I agree with you (though I say it slightly differently), we were not made to eat just one or two things. It can be discouraging to see what we have done to the food supply. But we can change things…slowly but surely.

    Emilia,

    Thanks for the comment. While it can be a long journey towards eating all nourishing food, don’t you think it’s so rewarding as well! I love my theme as well. πŸ™‚

  19. KimiHarris says

    Lizzy Christine,

    I think that you are right. How we view our world and how we think it began certainly does effect how we view our food and how we should eat. In the 5o’s, when processed food became more mainstream, there was a high amount of focus on “progress” in the form of leaving behind traditional forms of cooking and food preparation. Perhaps they thought we could get around the idea of eating by the sweat of our brow. They even were excited about the idea of taking pills instead of eating (totally bypassing our natural need to taste, see and experience food. Really rejecting how we were made).

    All to say that our worldview has a profound effect on how and what we eat.

    Elizabeth,
    That’s great! I will check out your posts. πŸ™‚

  20. KimiHarris says

    Peggy,

    Good luck on figuring out what’s bothering your guys. πŸ™ That’s no fun. Have you looked into giving your gut some help? (doesn’t that sound nice! LOL) I know that gut problems (I think they call it the leaky gut syndrome) are often related to allergies. I didn’t realize that a Mediterranean ancestory would make you more prone to have an allergy to milk. I thought that they ate a lot of cheese! Shows you how much I know. πŸ˜‰

  21. Lindsey says

    Hi Kimi,
    I have been reading your blog for a few months now, and wanted to say thanks! And what an amazing job you’re doing, I know that takes a lot of commitment and time to do a blog… Also, If you get the chance can you do a section on saving time? I would love to do more of the nourishing foods, soaking grains, sprouting, etc… But it seems so impractical for me right now. I have two young girls and am a SAHM, but still seem to be so busy. And we live in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, where there are not really any co-ops or local farms. There are Whole Foods, but they are a bit pricey for me. I shop at trader Joes and Costco a lot. Buying meat, ecspecially organic meat is a big stretch in our budget, so we eat a lot of vegetarian. But feel it’s not doing a lot for us, sometimes you just crave meat. πŸ™‚

    • says

      Lindsey,

      Have you ever heard of Azure Standard? They are a co-op based out of Oregon. They have a wonderful selection of food, books and more with great prices. They make drop offs monthly in cities up and down California as well as other states. There are groups that you can can join and then order your items through. Each person has to order at least $50 worth each time but you don’t have to order every month. I order every few months. Everyone from the group meets in a designated spot to pick up their orders.

  22. Elaine says

    Closely related to this thread a friend just pointed out that Pollan has written another book on food that’s well worth reading:

    In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto
    -from a review:
    The final section of the book is Pollan’s rules of thumb. They’re pragmatic, human and easy to remember. Some examples and quotes:

    Rule No. 1 – ‘Eat food’. (Meaning proper food made from proper ingredients instead of food products made from everything else. Homemade cake instead of ‘diet’ cake bars.)

    ‘Don’t Eat Anything Your Great-Grandmother Wouldn’t Recognise As Food’ With the additional comment, ‘Don’t eat anything incapable of rotting is another personal policy you might consider adopting’.

    ‘Avoid Food Products Containing Ingredients That Are A)unfamiliar, B)unpronounceable, C)more than five in number, or that include D)high-fructose corn syrup.’

    ‘You Are What You Eat Eats Too. That is, the diet of the animals we eat has a bearing on the nutritional quality and healthfulness, of the food itself, whether it is meat or milk or eggs.’

    ‘Do All Your Eating At A Table. No, a desk is not a table.’

    I haven’t read it yet, but I enjoy his thoughtfulness and easy writing style. It’s now on my wish list. . .
    so many books, so little time!

  23. says

    Hi Kimi,

    Great article. When I talk with my family members who are terrified of even grass fed beef or butter about nourishing food, they say “yeah, that makes sense, but there’s just too many calories.” So they continue to eat their oatmeal sans butter or opt for bars instead of meals. We have been so deceived.

    I also have a question for you. I didn’t see a contact link anywhere on your site, so I thought I would just ask in the comments. What hosting service did you go with for your site? I am looking for one that is a bit more economical than the ones I have come across.

    Thanks!
    Shannon

  24. Brenda says

    Kimi,

    I had a question regarding pinto beans. I would like to find a way to can them and have them available quickly when I’d like to add them to recipes, but wondered if the whole canning process is bad. I thought that if I were to soak them first that would make them “Nourishing approved”. I read that one canning method gets to 240 degrees, but I thought I’d ask your opinion, if you had one.

    Thanks, and love your blog!

  25. tanya says

    Im so glad you wrote this site!! This is exactly how I feel about food. I have a 14 month old baby and I am doing everything I can for her to be healthy and strong. I make everything for her from scratch avoiding all processed stuff. Alot of pple think im overboard but I just think how is it overboard when its the way God meant us to eat.. in my opinion πŸ™‚ anyways thanks so much its good to know there is somewhere to go where people feel the same. I have some recipes i will share!

  26. says

    I agree completely about eating real foods. In fact, I was so confused about the real food movement at first and thought there was something I didn’t know. Actually, I’ve been eating real food ever since I found out I was sugar & gluten intolerant. Everything else was off limits. And, I never bought the processed gluten-free food because it either had sugar in it or it was just unhealthy all together.

    I am discovering, though, that I might have some other food intolerances in addition to sugar & gluten – which makes me wonder about the cause. Regardless, my experience has taught me that there is no one size fits all diet. Instead, it’s a process each of us must (should…) undergo to find out what foods nourish and heal our bodies.

  27. reiner says

    I think you do not see the vast improvements science has made over the human’s life quality and span. maybe we do die of heart disease and cancer nowadays but our ancestors did not have a chance to develop these diseases as they died from infectious diseases much earlier just like people in underdeveloped countries do.

    I do not say that each new “health food” is really healthy on the long term, but consider yourself lucky that some people research these things; there are very nutritious foods that europe didn’t traditionally consume like peanut butter or quinoa and these are very useful in famine areas or even in periods in life when you lack money for organics and for meat – which is more expensive than vegetables.
    still, i appreciate your site:)

    • KimiHarris says

      Reiner,

      I don’t think that you got the main thrust of what I was trying to say. I do appreciate modern life and quite frankly am glad that I was born in the century I was! I just don’t think that we should abandon the lessons from history that we can glean from. There is no reason why we can’t enjoy the wisdom of the past while living in a modern world. And there is no reason why we can’t enjoy traditional food (which includes quinoa, by the way), in a non-traditional culture.

      By the way, some may have died from infectious diseases, but other cultures lived long healthy lives in the past. πŸ™‚

  28. says

    This is a wonderful post, and I especially love this piece:

    “And although this might not have been apparent at first (as it certainly never occurred to me in the past), I feel that there is a certain arrogance in rejecting our historical inheritance. It’s as if we look back on history and say, ‘We know better than you how to eat and live’.”

    I’ll be writing about nourishing foods and foundations on my blog in upcoming months, because ever since I read Nourishing Traditions back in 2006, my whole view of food and agriculture and government and parenting and…I really can’t think of a part of my life that hasn’t been touched by what I learned in that book! I’ll definitely be coming back to your blog again and again for inspiration. Thank you!

  29. RW says

    Hi Kimi,

    I found your site while doing a search on garlic – thanks for the great tips on consuming a whole clove! I agree with much of your philosophy about food, but I do maintain a vegan diet because I can’t come to terms with the practices of the meat and dairy industry.

    For example, I thought about free range hens but discovered that all the male chicks are killed in horrible ways (like thrown in a grinder, or in the trash) because they have no value to the industry. I ended up adopting two hens and gave the eggs to my kids for a while, but I could never buy pullets because of the way the male chicks are killed. Funny, a lot of people don’t think about what happens to the male chicks when they buy pullets from the feed store. Have you heard this as well? Secondly, I thought about milk but discovered that dairy cows are repeatedly impregnanted and babies are taken from their mothers at a very young age, which causes great distress. Then the babies are raised in crates to become veal or to become dairy cows as well. I am a mother and I can’t imagine having my baby stolen from me…so milk, cheese and butter were out. Do you know if there is a way to obtain milk without contributing to this? I tried looking into goat milk, but it was the same story, except miniature goats which I think can produce milk for a long period of time(?).
    I realize that some animals are treated better than others but my research has shown that ‘routine’ practices often involve pain and confinement at some point. Don’t pastured cows have to be sent to a certified slaughterhouse? the travel, confinement and ‘death row’ seem inhumane to me, even if they were treated to green pastures for the majority of their lives. Anyway, like I said, I agree with eating whole foods and I am not a fan of fake meats, etc. I make nut cheeses, cultured foods, and use a lot of natural fats such as coconut oil and avocados in my dishes. I make my own milk from almonds and it is rich and creamy – nothing like the store-bought milk! I appreciate that you promote nourishing foods and I would just like to see that ‘term’ encompass a whole foods vegan diet as well. Vegans are not all ‘low fat’ and ‘tofu’ πŸ™‚

  30. anuradha says

    nice. very nicely articulated, without the typical emotion and sloganeering that unfortunately surrounds the much needed dialog (and indeed adoption) of traditional, forgotten foods. I typically never, ever respond to posts, just so that I dont add to what all the people have articulated, if I dont have something to say. But this one deserves much appreciation.

    you might be interested, I run a tiny little organic restaurant in chicken-whiskey-stricken Delhi, in India. The core principles we use at our restaurant is to completely reject processed foods. No refined flours, oils, sugars. for example, we use a sugar made by traditional artisans in some villages in northern India. Molasses is processed using carom seeds and ladyfinger seeds! We also bring back a lot of the forgetten foods, like a wealth of millets grown all across the country.

    So very nice to see your post (am seeing it much later than when you posted it :)).

    Great work!

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